eco-friendly travel

How to Have a Sustainable Beach Vacation

A recent study in Nature Climate Change reports that the industry of travel and tourism contributes eight percent of all carbon emissions. As the weather begins to warm up and the sun seems to shine brighter, many of us will begin to plan well deserved beach vacations. Whether you’re planning a road trip or international flight, explorers will need to start thinking twice about their traveling choices in order to decrease their own carbon footprint, and that of the wider travel industry.  

Avoid Waste While at the Beach

A lot of waste can come from a typical beach trip, including sunscreen tubes, pre-made sandwiches and snacks, throwaway water bottles and plastic sand toys. You might think this is no big deal, but ninety percent of the plastic will go straight to the landfill without a second thought to recycling.  Fortunately, many companies are now producing sunscreen and other products in refillable, or otherwise reusable packaging to cut down on waste. Try to make your own sandwiches and snacks before heading down to the water, and pack them in reusable plastic containers to reduce single-use plastics. And bring your drinks in a handy insulated water bottle. Although worth it, some of these items can be expensive. However, making sure to purchase travel insurance will put your mind at ease, as it’ll mean you’re financially ready to manage expenses in case something goes wrong on your trip.  

Location, Location, Location

We all know that prime beachfront real estate is the most important consideration when it comes to lodging for a beach vacation. But it is equally important to stay somewhere centrally located to avoid having to drive. Burning just one gallon of fuel releases almost 9,000 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and this number doesn’t go on vacation when you do. A centrally-located rental should allow you to access everything you might need, from grocery stores, to restaurants, to the beach by walking, riding a bike, or taking the bus. Plus, walking, biking or taking public transit allows you to experience the city in ways that would be impossible while driving.

On the Ground or in the Air?

Although it can limit possible destinations, the general consensus is that taking the bus is the most sustainable way to travel. Getting a bus ticket will result in fifty percent less carbon emissions than driving even a hybrid car, and as much as seventy-five percent less than flying. Trains tend to be the next best choice for green travel, as long as your trip does not exceed 1,000 miles, and they travel much faster and can be more comfortable than a long bus trip.

For the environmentally conscious, the carbon impact of a summer beach vacation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to dampen your desire to have some fun. Making careful choices when you travel will lead to a truly relaxing vacation.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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